Belleek Pottery is one of the oldest working potteries in the world. It is known for its thin chinaware with a slightly iridescent quality. Visitors can take a guided tour of the historic factory building. There is also a shop and a tea room.
Located in Belleek Village in County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, the Beleek Pottery is just across the River Erne from County Donegal in the Republic of Ireland. A road bridge crosses the river at this point.
The idea for Belleck Pottery came to John Caldwell Bloomfield in the 1850s. Bloomfield, an amateur mineralogist had a survey made of his Castle Caldwell estate which discovered the raw materials for making pottery. With the aim of creating employment for his farm tenants, who were still feeling the lingering effects of the Irish Potato Famine, he conceived the idea of starting a pottery. Enlisting London architect Robert Willims Armstrong and Dublin merchant David McBirney as partners, he started a company in 1857.
To house the pottery, a large Neo-classical building was erected by the River Erne. To ensure quality, the company lured 14 master craftsmen from Stoke-on-Trent.
In a relatively short space of time, Belleek had established an international reputation with sales from as far off as Canada and Australia. Moreover, customers included Queen Victoria and her son the Prince of Wales, the future King Edward VII.
The pottery is still a thriving business producing some 100,000 pieces a year. Each piece is handcrafted and can be handled by as many as 16 different craftsmen.
On the tour of the pottery, visitors see the process of creating Belleek pottery. Although the rooms are quite large, there are only a handful of craftsmen. You can speak with them as they do things such as shape the pieces, paint the glazes and weave strands of clay to make Belleek's signature baskets. Also, since Belleek does not sell “seconds,” visitors are invited to smash the imperfect pieces.
In addition to the tour, the visitor centre has an audio/visual presentation and a museum with pieces ranging over Belleek's century and a half history.
For information about visiting, see the Belleek Pottery website.
For more about cruising to Ireland:
Click here for our Ireland index page
Cruise destination Ireland - Belleek Pottery - County Fermanagh - Northern Ireland